I recently lost a close friend to Covid. I’ve also become a part of the demographic where we attend more funerals than weddings. This forces me to survey the few friends I have left, and the difficulties we face in finding and developing new friendships.
There is no question that old friends are irreplaceable. No matter how much you like or click with someone you recently met, the history you shared with someone over the course of many years of your life, who knew you at different stages of your development, as well as you knowing them, is unique and not replicable.
One reason retirement community living has gained popularity is that it affords people with similar ages to have shared social interactions, and offers the opportunity of making new friends. Despite this advantage, there are a number of disadvantages to this type of organized life, one which I have written about in greater detail in a blog I posted a few months ago. However you feel about these senior citizen havens, they are not congruous with my personal philosophy, insofar as they are mostly inward focused, rather than trying to make connections with the world around us.
Given our internet age, there exists a plethora of online sites that pop up if you run a search for apps designed to help you make new friends. They range from Bumble BFF, a version of the popular dating site but geared towards people looking to make friends rather than date, to Real, a site that offers you personality types rather than photos of individuals, so your choices are less based on appearances. They also offer no option to select a gender or sexual preference in your search parameters, theoretically making for a more diverse field of choices. There is Nextdoor, aiming to create a private social network in your own neighborhood, along with Atleto for people seeking sports activities, Bark Happy for pet owners, Peanut for mothers with children, and many others with names like Friender, Meetup, Friend Match, Squad, and Tinder Social. Most of these function on the swipe right, swipe left model of traditional dating sites, and while they offer hope for making new friends, they also require disclosure of various amounts of personal information to a world where such information has at least the potential for misuse. If you grew up with Facebook, Match.com and the plethora of all the newer dating sites, this sort of interaction may come as second nature. For those of a different generation, there is a lot of built in resistance to using the internet in displaying information about yourself in the hopes that someone will be honest both in their facts as well as intentions in the use of these apps.
The old trope holds true of finding groups that participate in activities you enjoy is still valid. The bigger problem comes in establishing the kind of relationship that falls into the rubric of true friendship. This takes work, willingness to make yourself vulnerable to the needs of someone else, and the time to establish trust required for that kind of commitment. It also takes the availability of time on both your parts to give to a relationship. Sadly, our society norms and motivations today are more directed at either just having shared entertainment, networking, or social climbing. Lot of us have numerous acquaintances willing to have dinner or attend some event together, but, at least in my experience, few who want to establish a deeper relationship that requires risky personal disclosure or acceptance of obligation to the needs of the other. Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to have found a partner in our life who is our best friend, we need this type of connection with other human beings, so we keep searching, trying to build our own community.